The Wooden Firehouse

An allegory for computer security. You have lived all your life in a quickly growing town, whose growth has been sped up by constructing all the buildings out of wood. Some buildings in town are huge structures that have been repeatedly expanded with new wings and towers; others are simple shacks that are put up … Continue reading The Wooden Firehouse

Tips for course staff

Own the course (all else follows)This is your course and its success or failure reflects on you.Make it the best you can.Be responsibleGet things done on time or ahead of time. Sometimes otherresponsibilities make this tough. Let the instructor andyour colleagues on course staff know if you need help.Be nicer.Try to be at least as … Continue reading Tips for course staff

Headroom for Champions: a Scoring System for Identify the Champion

Andrew Myers Context: Many conferences attempt to follow Oscar Nierstrasz’s insightful and hugely helpful Identify the Champion pattern for scoring paper submissions. In my experience, however, the quality of PC decisions is being harmed by one aspect of this system that has not been working quite as expected: in particular, the A–D scoring system proposed … Continue reading Headroom for Champions: a Scoring System for Identify the Champion

Engineering

You will be asked to implement specifications that are unclear or contradictory. You will be evaluated anyway on whether you implemented the right specification. You will be asked the wrong questions. Still, you will have to answer the right question. You will need judgment and creativity to succeed.

Meltdown, Spectre, and why hardware can be correct yet insecure

The recent Meltdown and Spectre attacks have exposed, or at least emphasized, a fundamental problem with the conventional approach to computer security at the hardware level. Both of these attacks rely on side channels in conventional processor designs. By exploiting these side channels, an untrusted program can learn the contents of the operating system kernel's memory or … Continue reading Meltdown, Spectre, and why hardware can be correct yet insecure

Deserialization considered harmful: the security case for persistent objects

I've done a fair amount of work on persistent object systems, starting with the Thor distributed storage system and more recently, the Fabric system. I used to think the point of persistent object systems was to make programming easier. Lately I think security might be an even stronger argument. For programmers, the great thing about persistent … Continue reading Deserialization considered harmful: the security case for persistent objects